September 2019 Special Feature


It’s Labor Day, so you’re going to hear a lot about the recipes, sales, and the weather — particularly as Dorian bears down on Florida.

But with its roots in the worker movements of the 19th century, Labor Day is a good time to remember that workers over 65 — the fastest-growing segment of the workforce — are frequent victims of age discrimination. Americans are working longer — and often need jobs well into their 60s and beyond — because of the disappearance of pensions, the desire to maximize Social Security benefits, and the expectation that they’ll need more money as lifespans increase and medical costs rise.

Now, with the help of public-interest news organizations like ProPublicabipartisan legislation to make age discrimination easier to prove, and class-action lawsuits, seniors may get a fighting chance to hold onto or get new jobs.

It’s an uphill battle. Older workers are frequently discriminated against because their seniority makes them more expensive than younger workers, and in tech industries, there’s a pervasive view that they’re not nimble — or even “fun” — enough to fit in.

According to a CNBC story, some job applications list a “maximum” amount of job experience or have drop-down list of birth years that don’t go far enough back to include senior applicants.

For instance, IBM was the subject of a ProPublica investigation last year that found, among other things, a confidential planning document that spoke of a “correct seniority mix” and strategies to nudge workers into early retirement. Some workers were told their skills were out of date, and then re-hired as contract workers, at lower wages, without benefits. 

Like workers of yore, who fought for the 40-hour work week and against child labor, mature workers should be aware of age discrimination, either at work or in the job search. If you think you’re being pushed out of a job because of your age, you should call the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at 1-800-669-4000 to discuss your situation.  If you’re applying for a job, you might want to bone up on your social media skills and shorten your resume to omit older experience…but also know that if someone asks your age, they’re breaking the law.

Photo: Jez Timms for Unsplash


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